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American Airlines Agrees New, Delta-Style Pilot Contract, Southwest Negotiations Stall

News broke yesterday of Southwest Airlines’ negotiations over pilot contracts reaching a new low, as Southwest and its Pilots Association (SWAPA) struggle to resolve the airline’s position as the last of the ‘big four’ domestic carriers without a new, tentative or signed, 2023 contract with pilots.

American Airlines reached a tentative contract with the Allied Pilots Association (APA) July 27, with an agreement that matched the terms reached between Delta Air Lines and the Air Line Pilots Association.

Agreed in March 2023, Delta’s agreement with ALPA to increase its pilots’ wages by 34%, a contract deal estimated to be worth $7.2 billion over the next four years, set a new standard for the aviation industry. United airlines followed suit in July, increasing wages by 40%, among other perks, to meet the quality of Delta’s deal at a cost of $10 billion over four years.

ALPA President Jason Ambrosi, who insisted American reach a deal similar to his employer Delta. (Delta ALPA)

American’s deal, if ratified, will increase pay by between 34.5% and 40.2% over the next four years. Pay rates will immediately increase by between 13.8 and 18.7%, depending on the aircraft each pilot flies, and will rise incrementally until reaching the 34.5-40.2% cap in 2027. Sick leave, life insurance and the number of jump seats on aircraft are also improvements enclosed within the proposed contract.

American’s statement, emailed to press on 28 July, applauded “the Allied Pilots Association for its collaborative work to reach an updated agreement on a four-year contract for American’s pilots. It’s a contract we’re proud of and one our pilots deserve”. American’s 15,000 APA pilots will choose to ratify the deal by vote in August.

American’s press release did not acknowledge their tentative agreement in May, which APA pulled out of after United’s deal, matching Delta, was announced in mid-July. United CEO Scott Kirby had guaranteed “the industry-leading contract they deserve”, and offered an agreement to ALPA similar to that which the pilots’ union had negotiated with Delta in March. American CEO Robert Isom had similarly promised to match pay at other carriers.

Robert Isom, CEO of American. (Associated Press)

Southwest is facing similar complications with their own contracts now. Southwest CEO Robert Jordan told press last week that there was “nothing new to report” with regard to negotiations, adding that there was “no threat of an imminent strike or anything like that”.

Southwest pilots were preparing for a strike in June, in an attempt to end what has been a years-long payment saga. This week, the National Mediation board denied a request by SWAPA, filed June 29, to halt contract talks, which likely would have led to a strike.

Negotiations are set to resume next week, extending mediation that began in September 2022. SWAPA representatives expressed frustration with “Southwest’s lack of commitment to negotiating in earnest and the pace of productivity during this negotiation cycle” in a June statement.

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